The Power of Platform

Author platforms. I’ve been reading a lot about these recently, and I wondered how much a powerful platform impacts your sales. My question was answered on Twitter today as I clicked on a link about a best-selling book that isn’t even finished: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304450604576418161912396814.html

Wow. I mean that with all the respect I can muster. I believe that part of his success, this time, is his promise to sign every pre-ordered book, and the entire first print run. That’s a lot of signatures. Still, even without that, he has more than 1 million followers on Twitter alone (he’s also on Tumblr and YourPants.org), and all those people became instantly aware that he was writing his new book.

The more people who know about the book, and the author, the more that are likely to buy. A person is far more likely to order a book if they are already familiar, at least on some level, with the author. This is where the platform comes into play–to get to know the public and get them interested in your work. I read on another blog that writing is business, the goal is to make money. I disagree. Writing is the love of my life. Publishing is the business. I write even if I’ll never be published. But, if I want to be published, and I do, I need to be able to reach the public.

There is a lot of advice out there about starting an author platform, and when you should begin marketing yourself. Most say the same thing: start marketing yourself before you get published. If you have a readership lined up before you go to an agent/publisher/etc you are more likely to get noticed, and therefore land a contract. 

Yet, so many of these advice givers are rather vague in the details. Get out there. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a business person. I have no idea how to even begin. I read, once, that starting an online blog can help. I also read that a twitter account can help. Fine. But where do you go from there? Contact the readership. Okay. How? This blog, which I’ve actually become rather fond of, is my first attempt at a public blog. I joined twitter, under the same name, a little over a week ago. And I just sit there, wondering, where do I go from here? How do I know where to get the best exposure? How do I even “twitter?” I see some, and I really wonder why they bothered writing it. I see others that are thought-provoking. I’d hope to find myself in the later group than the former.

There’s more to an author’s platform than just online. There’s the news media: radio, TV, newspaper. Start locally. As I think about the two options, I find that this is where I would rather start. I know two local DJs. I’m also connected to the local university’s newspaper and magazine, not to mention my contacts in the Creative Writing department that were forged while I was seeking my English degree, who would love to have me as a guest speaker.

I can do person-to-person networking. I’m familiar with it. It may seem old-fashioned, but I think it’s more personal. I suppose one could become more personal online, as Mr. Green did, through YouTube. And yet, even though it may sometimes be an uncomfortable experience, both aspects are important to reaching to the public. The local news media helps to reach the local population that may not be following you on Twitter. And the online presence helps reach people who it would imprudent to try to reach in person, those halfway across the world for example. After I first became aware of the author platform, I’m almost continually reminded of it whenever I see a blog, or a twitter feed. I wonder how many of those are authors are up-and-comers trying to reach the public before they “make” it. I wonder how many of those who are published started their blogs/websites/etc only after their work was accepted.

I would be more than happy just to see my name in print, but to have people read, and love, my books and characters like I do, would more than anything I could ask for. I write because there is a story trying to get out. I write because I love it. And I have the sincere hope that someone else could find the joy in my words that I do, for me making money is secondary, but to a publisher its number one. There is no use in printing a book that won’t sell, and its the author’s, and sometimes agent’s, responsibility to make sure that happens.

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2 Comments

Filed under Writer's Digest 30 Day Challenge, Writing

2 responses to “The Power of Platform

  1. I like your demarcation of writing and publishing: Writing is art. Publishing is business.

    The point, of course, is that a writer needs to think like a publisher if s/he’s going to be successful in publishing. That means thinking like a businessperson. It’s perfectly possible to write and create art for the love… but eventually a writer who wants to be successful in the business context needs to look at things in that same way.

    As for platform… I agree. It’s easier said than done. I’ve got a blog and a twitter account and so on – and I’ve been doing this for over a year. But my readership hasn’t really changed significantly in all that time. I’ve gained a few readers, lost a few. It’s been a net gain in readers, but not significantly so. And… well… most of those readers are… guess what?… Other writers! Some of those would probably buy my stuff if it were published… but they’ve got their own works to worry about, you know.

    As to how to translate all of that into a “platform”? I don’t know. A blog is not a platform. A twitter account is not a platform. Having both is not a platform. A platform is your audience: the people who will buy your book for whatever reason (either they like you or see you as an authority, or whatever). But winning that audience is a slow affair, one reader at a time… and when you don’t have anything published… how do you convince them to read what you’ve written if it’s not out there? Sort of a catch-22, I suppose. Where the blog helps, perhaps, is in providing a “free sample” so-to-speak.

  2. Pingback: Writing for the future. | dwwriter

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